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The “Cat & Mouse” Act was winning the battle for the government in its conflict with the Suffragettes. Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social & Political Union was being forced into becoming a covert, underground organisation, and whilst all the other women’s suffrage societies were gaining support (the NUWSS had 100,000 members by this time), the WSPU was losing theirs. They were down to just 2,000 members.

On June 9th 1914 Mrs Pankhurst wrote to Mrs Bradley, a WSPU supporter, wife of the founder of Bedales and distant relation of Millie Garrett Fawcett, the leader of the NUWSS. Mrs Pankhurst asked for money to be sent to her as “Miss Howard” at 6 Blenheim Road in North West London, which was the address of supporter Barbara Wylie. This cloak & dagger stuff was necessary because the police had control of WSPU headquarters, Lincolns Inn House, and as treasurer, Mrs Pankhurst had to write such letters in an attempt to keep the campaign alive.

The following day, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested during her burgeoning East London Federation of Suffragette’s march on Parliament (see previous blog).

Meanwhile, the House of Commons was debating the possibility of either deportation or sectioning of Suffragettes. The Home Secretary McKenna argued that if Suffragettes were sent to a distant island it must either be a prison, in which case they would hunger-strike as before, or if they were simply left free on the island, wealthy supporters would quickly charter a yacht and bring them away. As to putting them in lunatic asylums, he made the startling admission, “I have on many occasions had the prisoners examined by doctors but in no case have they been willing to certify them as lunatics.”

On June 18th Mrs Pankhurst wrote to Eleanor Garrison in America, asking for as much money as she could raise from sympathisers in Boston.

The same day Sylvia Pankhurst was released from prison and what happened next was perhaps about to change the course of women’s history. See my next blog for what happened.

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